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News Archive

October 2017

Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG)

British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) is a founding member of the Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG) – its aim is to eradicate ill-health from the construction industry.

Current focus areas are dust and mental health. More information can be accessed at

Trade Unions Call on international financial institutions (IFIs) to Support Global Wage Rise

On the eve of the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank (Washington, 13-15 October 2017), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and its Global Unions partners called on the international financial institutions to help boost the incomes of working people around the world by supporting a strengthening of weakened collective bargaining rights and an expansion of universal social protection.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said, “A rise of wages will do much to reverse the fall in labour’s income share experienced in most countries, stop the trend of increasing inequality and provide the increase in global demand needed to sustain economic recovery.” She called attention to the IMF Chief Economist’s assessment on 10 October that the global recovery is incomplete due to the drag on the global economy caused by several years of wage stagnation.

Burrow noted that even though most countries are expected to experience positive economic growth this year, many countries have far from acceptable levels of employment and labour income. In particular, thirty-four emerging and developing economies will, according to IMF projections, be in a situation of negative per capita income growth in 2017.

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New BOHS Qualification in controlling Health Risks in Construction

BOHSC (The British Occupational Hygiene Society) Certificate in Controlling Health Risks in Construction (CCHRC) course was launched in June 2017, and courses for candidates have now been scheduled with Approved Training Providers.

This course is the only one of its type, and has been developed in collaboration with construction industry leaders to develop a new qualification specifically for the construction sector.

The qualification has been developed as a direct response to widespread demand from the sector: a demand for assistance in training and educating personnel in the health risks specific to their industry and workplaces, as the need to reduce workplace ill health within construction sites is becoming increasingly recognised. The course has been extensively researched in partnership with industry experts, and has been trialled with industry personnel.

WHO advice on prevention of ‘environmental’ diseases

A newly released publication from the World Health Organisation (WHO) highlights the ‘special relevance of environmental risks’ for non-communicable diseases (NCDs). WHO presents the burden of NCDs caused by environmental risks – a category that includes occupational risk factors – as well as the many areas where action is needed to reduce the burden.

It estimates almost a quarter (23 per cent) of global deaths are linked to environmental factors. The report notes that measures necessary to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals include steps to: “Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular, women migrants, and those in precarious employment.”

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US NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program Update

Evaluation of Potential Hazards during Harvesting and Processing Cannabis at a Farm

HHE Program investigators found tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component in cannabis, on all work surface wipe samples. We also determined that employees are at risk for hand and wrist musculoskeletal disorders if hand trimming tasks are performed for longer periods than we observed. We recommended developing a cleaning schedule for work and tool surfaces and changing procedures and improving tools to reduce the potential for musculoskeletal disorders.

Evaluation of Brake Dust Exposures at a Hydroelectric Dam

HHE Program investigators found that concentrations of metals and minerals in the air were well below their occupational exposure limits. Metals and minerals were detected at low concentrations on hands and work surfaces. We recommended evaluating airborne exposures while cleaning the other two generators.

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We shouldn’t need to prove the case for safety

Keeping the workplace safe is good for business, fact – but just because that’s a no brainer doesn’t mean it should be the sole motivation for firms, the TUC has said.

TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said he attended a recent meeting on health issues where a government official said it was important to argue the business case for safety. “In other words, we should show employers that it’s beneficial if their workers don’t get injured,” Robertson said. “There were lots of nodding heads in the room. But this kind of thinking really worries me.” He said agencies including the regulator, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), have been pushing this business case. “Now I’m all in favour of using evidence of the benefits of health and safety to promote it, and of sharing good practice, but we seem to be putting too many of our eggs in one basket. By not emphasising the legal requirements, we’re in danger of getting into the situation where employers only feel that they have to do something if it is beneficial for them to do so.” He said too many employers see their workers as ‘disposable’.

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Act now to prevent drone disaster, warn pilots

Laws must be put in place urgently to prevent a devastating collision between manned aircraft and drones, the UK pilots’ union BALPA has warned. The union alert came after the US Army confirmed one of its Black Hawk helicopters collided with what appears to be a civilian quadcopter drone near New York City and sustained damage to a main rotor blade and window. BALPA has been warning about the dangers drones pose for several years.

Results of collision testing carried out by BALPA, the Department for Transport and the Military Aviation Authority earlier this year showed that drone impacts on aircraft windscreens and helicopter rotors could be catastrophic, even at relatively modest speeds with small drones. It also highlighted how different a drone strike is to a bird strike and that the industry and regulator need to look afresh at the threat drones pose.

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Australia: New asbestos walk out at Opera House renovation

Electrical workers stopped work last week on the massive renovation of the Sydney Opera House, refusing to continue with the installation of cabling after receiving confirmation that potentially deadly asbestos had again been located in work areas.

Testing of samples confirmed they contained friable asbestos, sparking a meeting of electrical workers where the 35 members of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) decided to walk off the job immediately until the serious safety issue was resolved. The incident is the second in two months where asbestos concerns have halted renovation on the iconic building, with the ETU demanding the safety regulator and New South Wales (NSW) government intervene to ensure the issue is resolved.

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Canadian Research: Study highlights high work cancer toll

Canadian research has identified the high toll each year from work-related cancers. The study, Burden of Occupational Cancer in Ontario, which concluded there are ‘many opportunities’ to reduce the number of occupational cancers, was produced jointly by the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) and Cancer Care Ontario’s Population Health and Prevention team. It found solar radiation, asbestos, diesel engine exhaust and crystalline silica had the largest estimated impact on cancer burden and also the highest number of exposed workers in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province.

Approximately 450,000 Ontario workers are exposed, causing an estimated 1,400 non-melanoma skin cancer cases per year, according to the study. Fewer than 55,000 workers are exposed to asbestos, but the potent carcinogen is estimated to cause 630 lung cancers, 140 mesotheliomas, 15 laryngeal cancers and fewer than five ovarian cancers annually. About 301,000 workers are exposed to diesel exhaust fumes every year, the study found, causing 170 lung and 45 bladder cancer cases. An estimated 142,000 Ontario workers are exposed to crystalline silica, which annually causes almost 200 lung cancer cases.

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Event: October 2017 is USA National Protect Your Hearing Month

Occupational hearing loss can happen as a result of workers’ exposure to loud noise. Noise levels over 85 decibels can be hazardous to hearing.

If you have to raise your voice to speak to someone an arm’s length away, the noise levels may be loud enough to damage your hearing.

This October, remind your colleagues that noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable.

To learn more, visit NIOSH’s website for noise and hearing loss prevention and read NIOSH feature article on hearing protection.

Parents urged to buy their children’s Halloween costumes from responsible retailers

Parents are being urged to ensure they are shopping with responsible retailers in the run-up to Halloween.

The potential danger of children’s Halloween costumes has been in the spotlight following the horror suffered by Claudia Winkleman and her daughter Matilda in 2014, when the little girl’s costume caught fire after it came into contact with a naked flame.

RoSPA has been working with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and its members to develop a new testing standard for the flammability of children’s dress-up costumes, which goes beyond the current legal level.

Following testing in UK laboratories, the new stringent, voluntary standard means costumes should have a burn rate of 10 mm per minute – 300 per cent slower than the current 30 mm per minute standard.

Companies that have tested their costumes to this new standard will be allowed to print “This garment has undergone additional safety testing for flammability” on their labelling. They are also being asked to use more prominent fire safety labelling on packaging and on sew-in labels.

RoSPA recommends that, as with all clothing, Halloween costumes are kept away from naked flames, and that children are supervised by an adult when trick or treating. For additional safety, consider using battery-powered candles.

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Equity challenges casting couch culture

Allegations of sexual harassment and serious sexual assaults against film mogul Harvey Weinstein have exposed the unacceptable pressures women frequently face in the entertainment industry, UK actors’ union Equity has said. The union said it “wants to reiterate that the union is here for members should they have any concerns regarding their treatment in the workplace.”

In a statement Equity said: “Workers in the creative industries deserve to be treated with the same respect as other sectors of the economy and Equity will continue to challenge employers who abuse our members.”

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Over a quarter of fire safety inspectors have gone

Fire services have lost over a quarter of their fire safety inspectors since the Conservatives came to power, research by the firefighters’ union FBU has found.

The union, which compiled the figures from a series of Freedom of Information requests, says the ‘staggering’ 28 per cent drop in inspector numbers across the UK is a risk to public safety. FBU warns that the real figure could be much higher as some fire and rescue services do not know how many inspectors they employed in 2010, when the Conservatives took office.

Fire safety inspectors are responsible for ensuring that communal buildings and public spaces meet fire safety standards. Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: “Fire safety specialists play an essential role in the fire service. They help to enforce fire safety regulations that save lives and prevent damage to property. Fire services need proper funding, more inspectors and greater support if they are to continue keeping people safe.”

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Reducing solvents protects painters and the public purse

Reducing exposure to toxic chemicals pays off by reducing both work-related disability and welfare costs, a new study suggests.

The Swedish study investigated whether the decreased use of paints based on organic solvents has led to a decreased risk of neuropsychiatric disorders in painters by studying their rates of related disability pensions. Chronic toxic encephalopathy – brain damage caused by chemicals – is a recognised industrial disease in solvent-exposed painters. The study led by Professor Bengt Järvholm of Umeå University, Sweden, examined the number of disability pensions in painters and other construction trades. While about 40 per cent of paints were solvent based in the 1970s, two decades later this had fallen to about 4 per cent.

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Government cash to train 1 million in mental health first aid

A new £15 million government programme will see up to 1 million people trained in basic mental health “first aid” skills. The government says the programme will help people recognise and respond effectively to signs of mental illness in others.

The campaign, designed and delivered by Public Health England (PHE), will help people assess their own mental well-being and learn techniques to reduce stress. PHE said it will work closely with Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England and other mental health organisations to ensure the campaign builds on the knowledge and experience of the sector.

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The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launches second phase of construction inspection campaign

Construction projects across Britain are being urged to act now to ensure the health and safety of their workers is protected as the second phase of a targeted inspection initiative gets underway today.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says 43 workers were fatally injured in 2015/16, and an estimated ten times that number died from construction related ill-health, with a further 65,000 self-reported non-fatal injuries.

HSE is now asking every construction contractor, client and designer to ensure they are not adding to this unacceptable toll of harm by failing to manage well-known risks.

In addition to things such as falls from height, the campaign will focus on control of harmful dusts including respirable silica from concrete, brick and stone, asbestos and wood dust, as well as work at height, structural safety, materials handling, good order and welfare provision.

HSE points to the mis-conception that health issues cannot be controlled in construction. It says harmful dust, whether silica or wood, is a serious issue and can be managed effectively with the right design, equipment and training. Health effects may not be immediate, but the ultimate impact on workers and their families can be devastating.

HSE carried out over 2000 inspections during the first phase of the initiative earlier this year with action being taken to address these issues in almost half of visits.

HSE’s Chief Inspector of Construction and Director of Construction Division Peter Baker commented: “In phase 1 of this campaign HSE’s inspectors found lots of good examples of small sites working safely and protecting workers health from exposure to harmful dusts, proving it can be done. My message to smaller businesses is don’t wait for an accident or a visit from an HSE inspector – learn from the success of others and act now.

“Nearly half of construction fatal accidents and injuries reported to HSE involved refurbishment work.

“Some small refurbishment sites continue to cut corners and not properly protect their workers resulting in an unacceptable number of deaths and injuries each year.”

More information:

Almost half of Britain’s industry leaders do not feel enough is being done across industry to tackle cases of work-related ill-health, according to new research from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The research also found more than two-fifths of businesses are reporting arise in cases of long-term ill-health with the majority (80%) stating tackling this growing problem is a priority within their organisation.

This news comes as HSE figures show that work-related ill-health is costing the economy more than £9 billion with 26 million working days being lost, making it a priority for HSE, as the Government’s chief occupational health adviser.

The views of 300 major business leaders were sought and 40% of respondents said their industry was not doing enough to raise awareness and tackle the causes of long-term work-related ill-health.

The findings were revealed as HSE announced its new national campaign – ‘Go Home Healthy’. The campaign aims to reduce cases of work-related ill-health by shining a light on the causes and encouraging employers to do the right thing to protect their workers’ health.

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Study warns of crumb rubber health risks

Sports stars, amateur players and ground staff could be at risk as a result of a “remarkable” lack of occupational health checks on the effects of rubber crumb pitches, a study has found. The health of some people who work with surfaces made from recycled tyres – such as production workers, suppliers, installers and maintainers – may also be jeopardised due to inadequate monitoring, the research suggests.

Professor Andrew Watterson, who authored the study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, said it appears that risks are being “downplayed” despite well-documented links between rubber production and illness, bans on landfill disposal of used tyres and concerns about the health of sports people and others who use such surfaces. Indoor and outdoor pitches made from artificial grass may be filled with crumb rubber, which can contain hazardous chemicals. Due to data gaps and limitations of earlier studies, the risks posed by low level exposures to these chemicals are constantly being re-assessed and lower control limits applied.

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Don't turn your back on fridge fire risk warns London Fire Brigade

Consumer campaigners Which? have added their voice to the Brigade’s Total Recalls campaign by asking manufacturers to stop making non-flame retardant plastic-backed fridges and freezers. They have written to manufacturers to urge them to stop using non-flame retardant plastic backing on fridges, freezers and fridge freezers, which could create a fire risk in people's homes due to the potential to accelerate the spread of fire.

Fire retardant backing is crucial

In response to the announcement Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Dan Daly said:

“We have been calling for fridges and freezers to be properly covered with fire retardant backing for a number of years and so we are pleased Which? have added weight to our campaign.

“The entire back of fridges and freezers must be properly covered in fire resistant material to limit the spread of fire but the current manufacturing standards still allows for holes in the backing for cables or components which would leave the highly flammable insulation inside exposed.

“Partially covering the back of a fridge is like having a fire door with a hole in it that would allow fire, heat and smoke to pass through.

“Nearly one fire a day in London involves white goods and June’s tragic fire at Grenfell Tower started in a fridge freezer. Between 2010 and 2016 there have been nine fire deaths and 298 injuries as a result of fires involving white goods in London.”

The Brigade has made a series of urgent calls for action to make white goods safer as part of its Total Recalls campaign.

See also Fire Information Group UK website which has links to a number of contacts for recalls see

British Safety Council Annual Conference held 4 October 2017 in London

A very interesting conference covered a wide range of current topics including what the future world of work will be like. Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of the British Safety Council (BSC) updated the audience on the BSC activities – the rollout of the mental health construction scheme, Mates in Mind, had an ‘ambitious aim’ to reach two-thirds of the entire industry of 2.5 million workers. BSC has many members in India, and to serve them better is setting up an office in Mumbai. He talked about the Grenfell Tower fire disaster which is located near BSC offices and the impact of the fire which was such a tragic event. He hopes that it marks a turning point for improvements to fire safety in high rise buildings.

David Snowball, the Health and Safety Executive’s Director of Regulation said that Robens would be turning in his grave on the various ways the application of the Health & Safety at Work Act Section 3 was being interpreted and perhaps would be very interested how health and safety has infiltrated all ways of life. David talked about the very different attitudes to work by the millennials and also the impact of cyber security.

Professor Andrew Curran, Chief Scientist at HSE painted a fascinating picture not only of the future world of work but what is currently happening with the use of artificial intelligence, robots, cobots etc and gave a list of the titles of future and near future workers.

Information overload will play a prominent role in future jobs so jobs will be created with titles such as memory augmentation surgeons (to help people who have been overexposed to information and need more memory), waste data handlers (to securely dispose of information), and virtual clutter organisers will help keep our brains from exploding.

You read all this here! Keep going to conferences and do keep up to date by reading the latest information.

Denmark: Sexual harassment at work causes depression

Sexual harassment at work is bad for mental health, according to a new study. Researchers in Denmark found 1 per cent of more than 7,600 employees working for over 1,000 different organisations were sexually harassed by a supervisor, colleague or a subordinate, while 2.4 per cent suffered the same treatment from someone else they dealt with at work. Women were much more likely to face this treatment than men, with 169 out of 4,116 – compared to just 11 out of 3,487 men – reporting sexual harassment by customers. Of those who said work colleagues had harassed them, 48 were women and 31 were men.

The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, measured the effect on mental health using the Major Depression Inventory (MDI), a questionnaire used to work out a score in which 20 indicates mild depression and 30 or more major depression. Harassment by clients or customers increased the score by an average of 2.05 points, while this treatment at the hands of colleagues raised the score by 4.5 points. Co-author Dr Ida Madsen, of the National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Denmark, said: “In this study we found that sexual harassment from clients or customers, which is more prevalent than harassment from other employees, is associated with an increased level of depressive symptoms.”

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Bangladesh: Brands ‘to step up’ on factory fires

The deaths of at least six people in a textile mill fire in Bangladesh last week highlights the pressing need for new compensation scheme for bereaved families, a labour rights group has said. The Clean Clothes Campaign said, “in order not to leave them destitute without just compensation for employment injury, it is imperative that brands, employers and the government of Bangladesh step up to improve access to and provision of remedy in the short-term and by moving forward towards a permanent solution with adopting the National Employment Injury Scheme.”

Local media report that a fire broke out in the Ideal Textile Mill in Munshiganj, Bangladesh, on 20 September, killing five men and one woman, who were trapped on a higher floor. This fire is one of several deadly factory incidents in the country’s textile industry this year, including the Multifabs Ltd boiler explosion on 3 July 2017 as well as the Pakiza Textile Ltd fire on 1 June 2017. Ineke Zeldenrust of the Clean Clothes Campaign said: “It’s been nearly four years since the Aswad textile factory burned to the ground in Bangladesh killing and injuring over 50 workers. Tragically, to add insult to injury, their families are still waiting for adequate compensation. Their plight shows why a bridging solution for access to remedy is urgently needed until a full-fledged national system is operational.”

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